The market gave us all a scare with its recent volatility, but in these early earnings season days, it's resumed an upward trajectory, continuing the ascent it's been on -- with occasional pullbacks -- ever since the fourth quarter of 2002.

Which raises a question: Is the market priced for perfection?

Could be, yes
By historical standards, we've enjoyed a lengthy bull run, and spendthrift stock shoppers will find no shortage of pricey equities. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), for example, all clock in with price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios in excess of 50, easily outpacing their typical industry rivals and the S&P 500's P/E of roughly 18. Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) and Network Appliance (NASDAQ:NTAP) fit that racy profile, too, while even comparatively buttoned-down stocks such as Merck (NYSE:MRK) and AT&T (NYSE:T) sport P/Es significantly higher than their five-year averages.

The bottom line: If the market hits the skids again, puffed-up multiples could deflate in a hurry. That said, playing it "safe" by stuffing your money under a mattress carries risk, too: Pesky inflation will whittle away your purchasing power year in and year out.

How to proceed?
The goods news is you have compelling options: top-shelf mutual funds. If you want to maintain exposure to the market while taking on less risk than you'd have with a stocks-only portfolio, funds are an intelligent choice -- provided you choose them intelligently.

For my money, "intelligent" funds are those with managers who have been in place for at least five years, and preferably longer. Tenure is a key metric for savvy fund shoppers, who know there's nothing inherently magical about a mutual fund: It can only be as strong as the stock picker calling the shots now. That's why past performance, on its own, is woefully overrated: If a fund's eye-popping historical returns don't belong to its current leader, they're next to useless when it comes to gauging a fund's forward-looking prospects.

Indeed, it's better by far to focus on such things as fees, strategy, and whether a manager puts his money where his mouth is by investing his own moola alongside that of his shareholders.

The Foolish bottom line
We consider all the above and more at the Fool's Champion Funds investing service, doing the legwork for our members by zeroing in on just those funds worth considering for their portfolios. And so far so good, too: Since opening for business roughly three years ago, all of our recommendations have made money for shareholders, and as a group, they're besting the market by a 14-point margin.

If you're looking to reduce risk and would like to save time by zeroing in on the cream of the fund industry's crop, consider taking Champion Funds for a risk-free spin by clicking here. In addition to our complete list of recommendations, you'll also have access to our model portfolios, members-only boards, and every column inch of advice we're served up since day one. It's free for 30 days, and there's no obligation to subscribe.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises Motley Fool Green Light with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.